It’s interesting to watch Royal Space force for the first time after having seen 07-Ghost, because it feels like this film does right everything that 07-Ghost does wrong, from a world-building standpoint.
The film is set on an alternative Earth, and follows Shirou (his full name is a little longer). Shirou is kind of a sad sack who joined the military to fly jets, but didn’t have the grades for that, so he ended up in this universe’s version of the space program.
Except, in this universe, the space program isn’t like ours. Here the atom has not yet been split, and you didn’t get Warner Von Braun designing the V-series of rockets. Thus, you don’t have those developments combining with the cold war to turn the Space Program into A Big Deal.
Instead, the space program for the Kingdom of Honneamise is something of a dumping ground for misfits, with a budget of $1.95 and a ham sandwich, combined with a level of computing that hasn’t had much reason to progress from early 1940s levels, and all of it shows, in every aspect of the world. Every place where this world differs from ours makes sense.
The story itself is alright. It’s, basically, The Right Stuff as bildungsroman, with Shirou volunteering to be an astronaut after the death of the last candidate, in order to impress a girl, Riquinni. Over the course of the film, he eventually comes to take the job seriously, and grows as a person, before being the person who pushes to proceed with the launch, in spite of an impending military attack on the rocket.
That said, the details of the story are where things stumble. In the middle of the story, Shirou is getting burned out by the media circus around the launch, and retreats to Riquinni’s home. There’s no getting around this next bit – Shirou tries to rape Riquinni. He fails, but he still tries to do so.
However, that’s almost not the worst part of it. The actual attempted rape scene takes about 2 minutes or less of screen time. What makes it worse is the narrative role the sequence serves. Specifically, the scene exists for the sake of Shirou’s character growth. It is framed as him realizing how far he’s fallen and his need to improve himself. Riquinni’s response to the attempted rape is to self-recriminate, but to have no characterization beyond that. It’s an actively frustrating sequence, and when I saw people talking about when Bandai released it as the start of their Honneamise collection of prestige anime releases, the comment was that it had aged poorly. It has aged even worse since then.
This is especially aggravating because everything around the story, from the world-building to the animation is just so good. This film is one where almost any animation cel, every frame, just holds up on a freeze frame. It’s a movie that I could easily see getting a 4K release. But that one scene puts an asterisk on any recommendation that I’d make.
I’m glad I saw this movie, but that scene just keeps it from being a must see, and I feel that I have to let you know it’s there before going in.
If you are interested in seeing it, it is available for streaming on HiDive, and has received a physical release on Blu-Ray which you can get through Amazon or RightStuf. Buying anything through those links helps to support the site.
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